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Adele: Live at the Royal Albert Hall(2011)
A live concert performance of Grammy-winning pop/soul sensation Adele Adkins at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
For more about Adele: Live at the Royal Albert Hall and the Adele: Live at the Royal Albert Hall Blu-ray release, see Adele: Live at the Royal Albert Hall Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on November 30, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
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Adele: Live at the Royal Albert Hall Blu-ray Review
One and only.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, November 30, 2011
Maybe there's hope for the music industry after all. When the Buggles famously opined that "video killed the radio star" (the first video broadcast on MTV), it may have been tongue in cheek, but it signaled a perhaps depressing trend in the music business where image was at least as important, arguably more important, than any intrinsic musical content, let alone talent. The eighties and beyond were decades filled with faux artists (Milli Vanilli, anyone?) who looked great but turned out to be musical analogs to the Wizard of Oz, where what was behind the curtain didn't exactly match the majesty of the illusion. How refreshing, then, to see a young artist like Adele springboard to the top of the pop music heap with nary a look backward. Adele, still in her early twenties, has little to recommend her in terms of image. Full figured, as the euphemism goes, Adele looks like a younger, more attractive version of Comedy Central roast regular Lisa Lampanelli (sorry, Lisa, I'm sure you'll get over it), especially when Adele is dressed, as she is here, in a poofy dress that doesn't hide the singer's less than wafer thin physique. But once Adele opens her mouth, all bets are off, and it probably wouldn't matter if she were a six eyed alien with purple skin—this girl can sing, in a full throated, soulful, smoky way that is redolent of any number of other singers, including America's Bonnie Raitt (whom Adele covers in this concert) and even the Eurythmics' Annie Lennox. But Adele is very much her own artist, with a melismatic flair that is quite singular. She's also an unabashed alto, exulting in the lower ranges of the female voice, itself something unusual in the usual helium-voiced world (for both males and females) of Top 40 hitdom. This September 2011 concert was recorded at the "poshest venue" (to use Adele's terminology) in London, the Royal Albert Hall, and while the Beatles may have sung about how many holes it takes to fill the cavernous building, Adele makes it quite clear that it only takes one zaftig female to fill every seat in the place.
As with a lot of younger artists, Adele's singing is stronger than her songwriting, and while we get typically self- confessional odes to heartbreak (one of Adele's favorite subjects) and the occasional uplifting tune, one gets the feeling that the singer has only just begun to tap the wellspring of emotion, compositionally speaking anyway, that she has at her beck and call vocally. That makes her cover versions included here some of the strongest material in the concert, including everything from the quasi-rockabilly "If It Hadn't Been for Love" (with a great banjo part) to her wonderful reimagining of Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me," which is in fact heartbreaking and incredibly nuanced, although lacking the keyboard mastery of Bruce Hornsby.
Adele's own writing is stronger lyrically than musically, though she (along with her many collaborators) do manage to trot out a number of instantly memorable hooks, from the melancholic "Hometown Glory" to the equally melancholic but somehow exultant "Rolling in the Deep." Adele is almost like a cabaret artist in a lot of this concert, simply performing onstage with a solo keyboard artist, though her full band kicks in with fair regularity. That's another wonderfully refreshing thing about this outing—no fireworks, no real "stagecraft," just an incredibly gifted singer doing what she does best—singing.
As enjoyable as the concert itself is, what may be equally compelling to Adele's legion of fans is her sometimes long (as in loooong) monologues in between the songs. In the featurette included on the Blu-ray Adele talks, perhaps ingenuously, about how "shy" she is and how she doesn't really understand why she becomes such a chatterbox on stage. But a chatterbox she is in this stage, starting things out by dropping the F-bomb in terms of performing in the Royal Albert Hall, where she once saw her idols The Spice Girls (she immediately apologizes for her lack of decorum, but then goes on to repeatedly drop the F-bomb again throughout the concert, probably the main reason this release contains a Parental Advisory sticker). She's incredibly sweet, good natured and self deprecating in her comments, which cover everything from her oft-mentioned breakup (and halting reuniting) with her ex-boyfriend, or in a quite touching if bizarre moment, her rapprochement with her best friend, who is in the audience.
Adele is sometimes compared, probably inaccurately, to another British soul sensation, Amy Winehouse, and in a touching moment in this concert, Adele urges the audience to turn on the lights on their cellphones which flash like electronic candles in the wind as Adele sings an homage to her late friend. Winehouse had little of Adele's vocal pyrotechnics, but probably a better grasp of songcraft, which hopefully Adele can grow into. Adele on the other hand doesn't seem to be haunted by the substance abuse problems Winehouse suffered from (although in the supplemental featurette she does quickly mention that she's no longer "allowed" to drink). Adele has had a quite recent health scare with problems with her vocal cords, which required laser surgery. Hopefully she can come back stronger than ever, because the music world needs someone like this young woman, a singer who obviously doesn't fit into the preconceived mold of what a modern pop star should look like, but one who sounds like no one else on Earth.
Adele's sit list includes:
Adele: Live at the Royal Albert Hall Blu-ray, Video Quality
Adele Live at The Royal Albert Hall is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Columbia Records with an AVC encoded 1080i transfer in 1.78:1. This is a surprisingly shoddy looking transfer from Columbia, which usually do excellently sharp and detailed high definition concert releases. While close-ups exhibit a fair amount of fine detail, other parts of this video presentation are pretty ragged, including dark shots of the audience which swarm with grain which gets to the level of digital noise, and a lot of very noticeable banding when the cameras are facing the battery of upstage lights which backlight the artist and her band. Colors are generally excellent, with bold and bright saturation, and black levels are above average, though there's still noticeable crush upstage and around the edges of the darkened stage quite a bit of the time.
Adele: Live at the Royal Albert Hall Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Luckily the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix included on the Blu-ray is superb for the most part. Directionality is quite well handled (listen for example to the glockenspiel patch that starts out "Hometown Glory" and how discretely positioned in the right channels it is). Adele's voice is captured in all of its singularity, and the balance between the singer and the band is very well mixed. The one problem here is the overwhelming sound of the audience, which completely subsumes Adele and her band at times. It's interesting to compare the mix on the Blu-ray with that on the included CD, for the CD mixes the audience much further back, allowing more sonic presence for the singer and her band (this is not to say that the audience is inaudible on the CD, for it most certainly is, especially in the "singalong" moments). Fidelity is superb on the DTS track, with ample low end and great dynamic range.
Adele: Live at the Royal Albert Hall Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
You, Me and Albert (1080i; 8:31). This extremely engaging, albeit quite brief, featurette (in black and white) offers Adele preparing for the concert (wait until you see her in bathrobe and curlers making her morning tea), interspersed with some backstage shots of her getting ready to take the stage at the Royal Albert Hall. Adele's very distinctive genuineness comes through loud and clear on this sweet little featurette.
Adele: Live at the Royal Albert Hall Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
As odd as it may sound, Adele has something of the same blue collar, working class cred that The Boss himself has on this side of the pond. Adele is unfazed by her stardom and seems to be well in control of her future, if her current health problems can be successfully overcome. This excellent concert finds her in fine form, both vocally and in her unabashedly hilarious monologues in between the songs. Though the video quality of this release leaves a bit to be desired, the audio quality is excellent, so overall this release comes Recommended.
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